Music

15th November, NMF!

What a stellar week. Something about the cold of winter imbues the subtlest of melodies with melancholy, and I’m here for it. BUT don’t fear, there’s also a few classic bops here to keep you warm too.

BILLIE EILISH / EVERYTHING I WANTED

You would be forgiven for assuming this is going to be more of what took Billie to the top, namely the bravado filled stomper that is ‘Bad Guy’, but you’ll be taken aback when you see it’s much more akin to her delicately devastating moments like ‘Lovely’ and ‘I Love You’. There’s a deep melancholy to the delivery and lyricism, admitting dreaming about her own suicide, even with the uplifting chorus. It’s a masterclass in less-is-more with captivating flourishes in the production, underlining what is a gorgeous ballad with a proper beating heart. Lovely.

LIZ / INTUITION

I’m almost aghast at just how much influence Liz is prepared to instill through her recent output, each one sounding further placed in time than the last, and ‘Intuition’ is just… well, it’s spellbinding. Quite honestly I’m prepared for her to not receive the acclaim she deserves but for this sound to slowly creep its way into the mainstream anyway. Ride that wave, Liz. We’ll remember you at the fore-front with Rina.

HAYLEY KIYOKO / L.O.V.E. ME

Another song that relishes in a classic sound this week is the toe-tapping ‘L.O.V.E Me’, sounding like a lost boy-band classic number one. It’s easily one of Kiyoko’s best efforts yet and also probably her most immediate, packed full of incredible hooks that, I’m hoping, will draw in listeners from everywhere and every age. It’s the kind of song you can imagine Little Mix snapping up with a heartbeat, but Kiyoko is center stage and imbuing it with everything it needs.

GRIFF / SOUND OF YOUR VOICE

Who knew one of the best songs of the week would invoke such strong memories of Super Mario in me? It’s those delicious little vocal snippets, the production sounded like some sort of Gameboy Advance jingle. It’s addictive enough as it is, then you’ve got such a great vocal delivery and one of the best choruses of the year so far. By the end of the three minutes I’m practically bouncing on the ball of my feet like Mario bopping his head into a question block.

ELLEY DUHE / GOOD DIE YOUNG

Elley Duhe has been my one to watch for a while, and I’m a total sucker for any moody and brooding bass-synth driven mid-tempo as it is, so how lucky am I that Elley has produced something that practically perfects that? Nobody quite sings like Elley, some gorgeous blend of Ellie Goulding and Sia, and she uses it to great effect with haunting belts and ad-libs. It also helps that this reminds me of So Below’s recent output, perfect for the dark and rainy nights, and I’m already making another playlist just for that now.

Music

6th September, NMF!

My stomach butterflies are telling me that September is going to prove to be somewhat of a stacked one, what with Charli XCX and Tove Lo both dropping their long awaited albums and plenty of other smaller releases bound to hit us between them. This week is all about the greatest band in the world, MUNA, whose stunning sophomore is already proving to be a delicately queer love letter to pop music. It’s the kind of music we deserve.

That being said, there’s also some really gems that have dropped this week too not from MUNA (although I was tempted to simply place the entire album in our dedicated playlist, it’s that good.)

MUNA / TAKEN

Proving that conceptual songwriting doesn’t have to be without relatibility, ‘Taken’ recalls an infatuation over someone already in a relationship, with Katie bemoaning her own desire to destroy someone else’s life just because they want what they can’t have. The production is smooth like silk: curving and swaying whilst the lyrics jut, particularly with gutting lines like Dad left when I was eleven, Mum said it’s ’cause he couldn’t keep from touching other women. The best lyricism is deceptively simple, almost as though it’s a topic we all recognise and expected to have been used before, but approached in an entirely different way that opens it up in new ways. ‘Taken’ does that, forcing you to sympathise with the one who wants to cause all the destruction because we can all fall in love with destruction sometimes.

OH WONDER / HALLELUJAH

Perhaps we ought to credit Oh Wonder a little for the now infamous Billie Eilish ASMR vocals? If there’s one thing about them that sets them apart from anyone else, it’s the exceptional vocal mixing. ‘Hallelujah’ is a positively stunning duet mixed perfectly, the vocals giving weight to one another, and an anthem of self-love that I really didn’t expect from them. Opening with the trademark minimal piano and whispery vocals, it’s not long before the beat picks up and the enormous chorus comes sweeping in. It’s marvelous.

CAMILA CABELLO / SHAMELESS

Camila is back, immediately following her number one single with a spunky double release. The fact an artist is actually taking the opportunity to relish their momentum in 2019 is a little surprising, let alone releasing two tracks. Once you hear ‘Shameless’ though you’ll understand that the label probably weren’t sure enough about it as a single in all of its BANKS inspired glory. It’s experimental for her, the chorus tore out in place of a hooktastic bridge and floor-shaking drop, but also feels like a decent follow up to ‘Never be the Same’?

SOFI TUKKER / PURPLE HAT

Is there anything more exciting than pop music’s ability to co-opt genres in consistently fresh ways? The way it can fit almost any other genre inside of its skin, evolving as it ingests new inspiration. Sofi Tukker understand this almost better than anyone, with their production constantly evolving as new inspirations find their way into the studio. ‘Purple Hat’, though, is the next step for them: it truly sounds like a cacophony of influences all smashed up into… a Reggaeton-Dance-Pop epic?

JAX JONES, ELLA HENDERSON / THIS IS REAL

Well, I honestly wasn’t sure we’d ever see this track come to light. How fitting that it has reared its head now attached to resident poltergeist Ella Henderson, who hasn’t been seen in years. If you don’t know already ‘This Is Real’ originally featured Selena Gomez (yes) but was seemingly shelved when a brief 10 seconds leaked on to the internet. A damn shame because, as we now know, it’s a pretty timeless house bop. Does it do much to change the wheel? Not really, and dance music doesn’t need to. The thing that makes this special? Ella Henderson’s absolutely stellar delivery, recalling every incredible dance mix vocal from the early 90’s. Those piano stabs and her belting practically transports me to a gypsy fair, spinning my brains out on the rides.

As I said this week is stacked and I could sit here and write about the new Grimes track (a dance inspired bedroom-studio bop), the new Tove Lo and Kylie Minogue feature (yes, they have done a duet!) or even the latest Charli XCX pre-release single. I could write about them, or I could repeat the new MUNA album for the sixth time today. Which is what I’m going to do.

Music

23rd August, NMF!

SO BELOW / CLEAR

So Below has had somewhat of a miraculous 2019 so far, ‘Clear’ being the third release in a row that successfully melds her dream-pop into a terribly exciting package of gorgeous lyricism and roof-raising choruses. She’s always been able to translate a effervescent melancholy but ‘Clear’ really feels like something else; it’s getting lost in the ocean of emotion, the thunderstorm rolling past, and the rubble left behind. By the time it finally comes to finish, the whole world has changed. It really is that good.

5SOS / TEETH

Behind the slight whiff of pretentiousness, ‘Teeth’ marks 5SOS’s embrace into a harsher alternative rock more than ever; if ‘Youngblood’ was the walk then ‘Teeth’ is the run, in fact immediately hitting a sprint. It’s not hard to imagine a world in which the likes of Charlie Puth, Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes try to replicate this sound but it feels like 5SOS beat them all to the punch. Between a Billie Eilish-esque bassline and some damn addictive hooks, I think we’re witnessing the new trend wave begin to stir?

POPPY / CONCRETE

Anything I write here cannot prepare you for this song. ‘Concrete’ is the sound of the zombie apocalypse colliding with the cutest of Japanese anime, it’s pure aggression and metal mixed with Queen and J-Pop, it’s monumentally bat-shit from start to finish and IT WORKS. Despite switching gears at blistering speeds, every shift only adds more to the power of the song. And at the heart of it is this cutesy enigma: Poppy. This is… quite simply the oddest but most brilliant song I’ve heard in months? Don’t even get me started on the closing Paramore outro. Incredible.

TAYLOR SWIFT / THE MAN

It would be easy for me to pretend that the Taylor Swift album doesn’t exist, especially after it followed a four-punch of some of the worst pop singles I’ve ever experienced, but it’s actually not that bad nor is it anything like what the singles that preceded it suggest. ‘The Man’ isn’t perfect but it’s probably the best that the album offers, it’s lyrically smart with something to say and above all it’s an undeniable pop song. Why on earth the label and Swift did not lead the album with this will be a question on my lips for a lifetime, but for now I’ll settle with this being the next single PLEASE.

ROTHWELL / FOLLOW WHEN YOU’RE DANCING

‘Follow When You’re Dancing’ is the retro 80’s banger that you absolutely needed following the past four songs. Easily the best thing Rothwell has put her name to yet, it’s a cacophony of bouncing synths and cooing ad-libs, culminating in a soulful and spirited Robyn-esque dance bop with a chorus so HUGE it instantly recalls ‘Teenage Dream’ and spending summers with tunes blaring into the smoggy heat from the car. Do I have any idea what the title means? Absolutely not, and I do not care.

BONUS GOODNESS
MURA MASA, CLAIRO / I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS AGAIN

Clairo is having a bit of a breakout moment right now which makes ‘I Don’t…’s release right now even more miraculous for the Summer. Fresh and delightful, it’s the complex summer banger we absolutely needed right now. Because really the best summer bangers aren’t one-note happiness, they are nostalgia, tears and fresh sweat.

EYES ON NEW MUSIC PLAYLIST:

Music

2nd August, NMF!

August kicks off with a bang as the delightful Alice Chater returns with a dance banger, Carly Rae and Kiesza sign themselves up to features that are actually good and Ava Max double dropped suprisingly adequate pop songs despite a whole new upcoming single campaign. Here’s our best of the best:

Vocally Alice Chater is at that infamous Jessie J level of overwhelmingly competent, though our blonde diva in waiting is somewhat of a triple threat – glorious tunes, impeccable dancing skill and a towering voice. ‘Tonight’ follows in the footsteps of ‘Thief’, a somewhat anonymous megabop that sounds dangerously similar to ‘One Last Time’, in establishing Alice’s pop persona. You’d think talent was enough but we also need the songs.

I’m not quite sure whether ‘Tonight’ is that song just yet, but it’s the first time we’re glimpsing Alice Chater away from the samples and similar sounding sonic palettes. At times it really does sound like a remix, with the verses clearly missing something, but 1. crucially the chorus is huge enough for that not to matter 2. The music video, available here, is a total 10/10 blast (as are all of her music videos for that matter) and 3. the middle-8 is otherworldly. Honestly I almost crashed my car this morning when she came Ooooooooh-ing through the speakers.

Carly Rae has been a bit of an enigma this year, firstly for following one of the greatest and most refined pop albums of all time with a disappointing and a somewhat half-baked return, mostly because it kind of feels like her interest in her own sound has stagnated somewhat. It’s back to square one, and she’s jumped on a feature with the very underrated Gryffin – now you only have to look at the artwork and you know how this is going to go, but it does subvert the drop with a gorgeous horn/synth mix solo that suits Carly’s voice perfectly. It’s a kind of tiny moment of wonder that I hope inspires Carly going forward. Production aside, this is essentially a Carly song – so it’s not too farfetched to imagine a world in which she embraces this a little.

I hear sounds in the hallway, rocking chairs are moving on their own” Ava croons softly in what sounds like a misplaced Halloween reference. Ava Max is fairly easy to understand, her persona has been crafted that way, and thus ‘Freaking Me Out’ isn’t aiming to surprise as much as appease the listener. It does manage to have these small surprising moments of glory throughout though, imbuing it with character, like the ‘du du du’ middle eight section (complete with flutes!) that comes and goes within seconds. As long as she keeps this little surprises up, she’s good.

As a total sucker for emotional dramas and teen-flicks, 13 Reasons Why is the biggest guilty pleasure I’m happy to admit to. ‘fuck, i’m lonely’ sees rising star Lauv team up with Anne-Marie in a stunningly intimate duet about loneliness and the refusal to get over someone. Admittedly a worn topic, particularly when you think about the other party who is receiving these endless calls, but smartly coupling with 13 Reasons Why – which deals with teen angst and suicide, amongst a breadth of other things – gives it the extra dimension it needs. Lauv is doing a storming job right now openly exploring feelings in his music, which is not easy for males in the media right now, and ‘fuck, i’m lonely’ is another string to that bow.

Mabel’s album, High Expectations, is out now and ‘Put Your Name On It’ is easily the best thing from it that hasn’t already been released. Whilst she’s been at the helm of quite a handful of big hits now, most notably the recent ‘Don’t Call Me Up’, it has taken this long to put out a piece of work. ‘Put Your Name On It’ recalls her features (‘Ring Ring’, ‘Fine Line’) but showcasing her charismatic ability to command it by herself. It definitely seems as though she’s being lined up to be the next Dua Lipa, and frankly she has the material to match, so hopefully this is her ‘New Rules’.

There’s plenty more to listen to this month, as always it’s documented in our weekly ‘Eyes On…’ playlist here:

Give it a follow and make sure to tell us what songs you’re enjoying this month!

Eyes On…

Music

July 12th, NMF!

A big big BIG week this week. We’re talking enough hooks to catch a meal for the whole family. Get your earphones, get comfy… and dig in.

SOFI TUKKER / SWING

One of my highlights of the weak features almost entirely Portuguese lyrics and violent strings set to a dance background. Sofi Tukker have been behind some of the most versatile and exciting dance-pop music in recent memory but ‘Swing’ turns the character up a whole other notch. It’s delightfully addictive, the repeated lyrics cast out like a spell that hooks you right in – and just when it threatens to get too much, those gorgeous strings and a well placed ‘oooooooh’ softens it into pure bliss.

CALL ME LOOP / SELF LOVE

Call Me Loop has ditched the blonde locks and transformed her sound accordingly, switching from the frothy pop hits you’d hear from Rita Ora to a self-help anthem ripped straight from Ace Wilder’s playbook. It’s yet another delivery from Loop that leaves us wondering when she’s going to punch through – it’s positively oozing with character, Georgia’s vocal inflections and speak-sections keep it bouncing along. It doesn’t sound like an obvious hit, but it’s as catchy as the measles. Imagine this on the Melodifestivalen stage with a handful of dancers and coloured ribbons. Perfection!

BANKS / CONTAMINATED

Absolutely without a doubt the highlight of the week, if not one of the highlights of the entire year. While we wait for the album to sink in a little more, ‘Contaminated’ dug its claws in on first listen. It’s that broody, heavily affected ballad that BANKS knows how to deliver – you won’t find much of a deviation from her already perfect formula – but the worldbuilding on display in this song is astounding. Already one of the greatest songwriters out there, ‘Contaminated’ showcases Gillian’s unrivalled ability to present relatable topics in a completely unique, and heartbreaking, way.

THE BAND PERRY / GOOD LIFE

You may know The Band Perry from their fairly extensive country success. If you do, forget all about it. Their first new music in over five years, ‘COORDINATES’ established an entirely new dedication to electronic pop and ‘THE GOOD LIFE’ is the nail in that yeehaw coffin. Astoundingly it sounds as though they have been doing this sound forever, the sharp as nails vocal perfectly complimented by the glacial production. May they never look back.

PVRIS / DEATH OF ME

Like many other bands before them, Paramore being the closest, PVRIS perfected the art of delivering angsty rock music in a palatable pop package. Without sacrificing an ounce of their character, they have consistently delivered exceptional pop songs with that harder edge. ‘Death of Me’ is their best yet – it’s the kind of song we know Halsey would have begged to release. Production wise it is world class (and possibly the best produced song of the year?) with a chorus built to raise arena roofs. Welcome back, PVRIS.

Music

June 7th, NMF!

Last week delivered one of the best new music friday’s in years, so naturally the week after would have a lot to live up to. Luckily there’s one or two songs that manage to hit like a meteor, let’s check them out:

MUNA / NUMBER ONE FAN

Two years on from one of the most realised debut albums of all time, MUNA return with the shockingly confident ‘Number One Fan’ – an anthem dedicated to learning to love yourself in the face of negative internal energies. Gone is the overtly dramatic aesthetic and gloom in place of a hyper realised 90s glam-dream and a much, much lighter vibe. Coupled with one of the best music videos I’ve seen in a long time, ‘Number One Fan’ brings MUNA right back into the fold as one of the most exciting and important bands on the planet right now.

KIIARA / OPEN MY MOUTH

Typically a Kiiara song will instill a sense of icy cool, opting to present her pop star quality as out-of-reach and slightly Madonna-esque in its ubiquity. There’s a distinct anonymity to her, like a lot of Spotify girls, but also a distinct coolness that comes with owning her own sound (much like Billie Eilish). ‘Open My Mouth’ does away with that a little to present a much warmer island-influenced bop, slowly peeling away the artist known as Kiiara. It still has her trademark vocal chop, but the production suggests a very welcome progression.†

SWIMMING GIRLS / I DON’T WANNA GET TO HEAVEN

The revival of the 80s continues with Swimming Girls new track, complete with guitar riff that would play out as the credits roll of every cult indie film of that era. It’s a deadly song that will find its way into your head without you realising, perfect for sunset drives and every heartbreak fuelled getaway.

CHARLOTTE / SOMEBODY TO HOLD

‘Somebody to Hold’ starts out deceptively simple; it’s one of those songs that unfurl through multiple plays, as you dissect the lyricism and find your own pieces of the puzzle inside. Ultimately it’s a stunning ballad of longing that elevates itself with a stunning gospel choir, introducing soul aspects that makes me really excited for Charlotte’s sound. By the third minute, I’m fully prepared and waiting for an entire album of this exact template.

SABRINA CARPENTER / IN MY BED

Being part of the Disney alumni can be seen as somewhat of a curse or a blessing, either way it immediately implies a certain expectation. Sabrina’s brilliant EP, Singular, last year showed exactly why she shouldn’t be written off as another simple Disney character and ‘In My Bed’, taking from the second parter, drives the nail in deeper. Stunning art direction aside, the song is a perfectly crafted earworm which evokes Ariana Grande to a scary degree in parts but showcases a confident character in its own right. Sabrina is polished and ready to show herself as herself, and that’s EXCITING.

Be sure to follow the Eyes On New Music Friday playlist, which is updated weekly with every track worth listening to. This week is a much slower affair, so grab your earphones and prepare to mellow out:

Music

May 17th, the best of NMF!

Here are our top five of this weeks NEW MUSIC FRIDAY:

SOFI DE LA TORRE / ESTAMOS MAL

Sofi has often spoke about the influence her Spanish origin has had on her music, though this will be her first official release not in English, but that isn’t to the detriment to the song. ‘Estamos Mal’ showcases Sofi’s unrivalled ability to craft melancholic and introspective songs with an urban edge, the sheer pain and heartbreak drifts through even before you translate the lyrics. ‘We are not well, we are wrong’ she chants again and again from the heart. It’s the most open and exciting she has felt in years.

ISA / CONVERSATION

Spotify is a crowded place for the pop girls of today, each one seemingly drawing from the same pool of inspiration; most are blonde, have artwork that slightly covers their face and don’t stretch too far from the synth-pop template. ‘Conversation’ doesn’t break the wheel, its verses are pretty standard fare, but it does do the smart thing where it matters – the chorus is a gorgeous nugget of a hook. If you’re going to give us something, give us a good chorus.

GRACEY / IF YOU LOVED ME

Gracey’s ‘Different Things’ made a fair few waves with its minimalist vocoder-heavy approach, in hindsight the track was the perfect introduction to a new artist. ‘If You Loved Me’ dials the pop-song knobs up considerably, with a chorus as instant as anything on either of Lorde’s albums. Cut from a similar cloth but much more accessible, it’s so refreshing to see smart decisions like this.

KAT DELUNA / LAST NIGHT IN MIAMI

Listen this deserves to be here because it’s an enormous bop that segues really well with ‘If You Loved Me’ (If you don’t believe me, try it and get back to me). ‘Last Night in Miami’ isn’t going to rocket Kat Deluna back into the charts any time soon, it’s basically the lead single J-Lo has been trying to secure for the last few years, but I’m not going to turn my nose up at a 2010’s club bop like this and neither should you.+

CHARLI XCX, LIZZO / BLAME IT ON YOUR LOVE

Admittedly this took a few listens for me to get over the fact we’d already heard this in the form of ‘Track 10’, but it’s a great change of pace for Charli while also sounding perfect to her sound. Outside of the mixtapes, her music hasn’t necessarily lent itself to their PC-Music inspired standard. ‘Blame It On Your Love’ sounds like the best chance for Charli to get a hit as ever, especially considering she’s added the current big thing Lizzo to the track. Her verse exists to give us respite before the last thirty seconds obliterate our skulls.

This week, make sure you also check out:

Mark Ronson, YEBBA with ‘Don’t Leave Me Lonely’. His album really is going to be one of the most exciting of the year isn’t it?

Janice ‘Hearts Will Bleed’ introduces a new sound for her, the chorus is as big as ever.

Four of Diamonds ‘Walk Away’ is the best girl band single I’ve heard in years. More All Saints than Little Mix, it’s a fantastic ballad.

Hatchie ‘Obsessed’ is her best song yet and should soundtrack every Netflix teen drama from now on please. Absolutely stunning.

Carly Rae Jepsen ‘Real Love’ is the best thing from her new album, but it’s all very similar. If you like it, check out the album!